Since this is our informal channel of communication, I’ll keep this short and sweet. I just came back from one of the side events organized by the US Federation for Middle East Peace about interfaith dialogue for peace and understanding. The meeting was quite informal and featured a range of speakers, from career diplomats to teenagers involved in religious communities in NY, all echoing the dire need for interfaith understanding and increased dialogue in order to foster peace. This issue is more important than ever considering the events in Norway this week. A moment of silence is taken at the start of the meeting. Here are some informal notes from each of the speakers.
-First speaker, former Dominican ambassador; “young adults are a major force in today’s world, they are bringing change with social media and becoming innovators in the global forum of ideas so their contributions are becoming increasingly visible and powerful.”
– Former ambassador from Bangladesh, begins by commenting on the implications of Norway massacre for young people. “There will be no peace without development and no development without peace.” Advocates peace education in every nation in the world as a means of fostering understanding amongst world youth.
– Delegate from United Arab Emirates, speaking as a Muslim he wants to address youth and their role in interfaith peace. Speaks of the similarities between Christianity, Judaism and Islam and how they form the three Ibrihamic faiths. Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the Western world. Speaks about the history of the world’s great religions and their interrelatedness as a foundation for establishing peace between believers. Islam historically helped relieve tensions between Jews and Christians historically, but still it was misunderstood. Once Middle East conflict is resolved, this will be a major breaking point in Christian-Islam relationship and Judeo-Islam relationship, but in the meantime we must work toward fostering understanding and dialogue.
– A panel of youth speakers speaks: Jewish teenage (calls for enhanced dialogue among youth, pleads for peace and understanding between religions), a Muslim youth (from NJ, calls for a better understanding of Islam throughout the world, explains how the core of Islam preaches peace, love, good deeds and interfaith dialogue), a young Hindu woman (speaks about the animosity between different religious folk, particularly older, this stifles dialogue, youth must overcome these ancient hostilities and communicate more effectively to break the tensions). Young Episcopalian woman studying at Columbia (talks about religions’ focus on acceptance and loving your neighbors equally).
In conclusion, there was a very unified and positive vibe flowing through the room about the importance of young people in promoting peace and understanding through dialogue. The poignant and powerful voices of the young adults in the room were notable and moving, but there was a lack of tangible steps to be taken moving forward. Although the mood was ripe for real recommendations to be forged and action plans to be drawn up, fruitful dialogue is the farthest the meeting got.